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Oct 31, 2012 | 10:02 GMT

4 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: Senior Los Zetas Leader Killed in Zacatecas

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Shootout in Zacatecas

The Mexican navy and gunmen engaged in a firefight that left seven of the latter dead early Oct. 23 in Guadalupe, Zacatecas state. The roughly 90-minute clash reportedly began when the military raided a safe-house used by the gunmen. The fighting then spread to other areas of the city. After the shootout, the military immediately cordoned off the area around the safe-house and seized weapons and munitions. Interestingly, the navy secured the body of only one of the gunmen — at the time reported to be a senior organized crime leader who operated in Coahuila, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi states — while the other bodies were left at the scene to be handled by local authorities.

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A few media outlets Oct. 24 reported that one of the deceased was Omar "Z-42" Trevino Morales, brother of Los Zetas' top leader, Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales. Some even reported that it was Miguel Trevino himself. However, subsequent reports said navy officials had identified the man in question as Abel Isaac Aquiahuatl Garcia, aka "El Comandante King Kong" — Los Zetas' plaza boss in Ojacaliente, Zacatecas state. Although the most recent reports have not conflicted with the earlier reports that Aquiahuatl was the man taken away by the navy, authorities have not released any further information to identify the man. Assuming the deceased is Aquiahuatl, and considering that he was found in a heavily contested area far from a Los Zetas stronghold, his death is unlikely to have significant repercussions for the organization as a whole. Rather, its impact will be isolated to the ongoing rivalries between cartels in Zacatecas state.

Several criminal organizations — namely Los Zetas, the Gulf cartel and a Los Zetas splinter group that was led by Ivan "El Taliban" Velazquez Caballero prior to his Sept. 26 arrest — are currently battling for the state of Zacatecas. Violence there increased substantially in the summer of 2012, due to Velazquez's separation from Los Zetas and alignment with the Zetas' rivals, the Gulf cartel. The uptick in violence has prompted the military to increase operations, such as the Oct. 23 raid, in Zacatecas state.

Between the rise in military operations, the increasing action of rival groups in the area and the distance from Los Zetas' traditional base in northeast Mexico, the Zetas leader in a city like Guadalupe would be very vulnerable to rival attacks or military action. Therefore, he would probably not serve an indispensable role within the group; instead, a high-level leader who wanted to minimize risk would probably send his subordinates to Zacatecas to represent him. 

Corrupt Police in Cancun

The commander of the 34th Military Zone, Gen. Anastasio Garcia Rodriguez, claimed during an Oct. 24 news conference that approximately 90 percent of the municipal police in Benito Juarez, Quintana Roo state, had been corrupted by drug cartels. Garcia Rodriguez added that much of the corruption began during the term of former Benito Juarez police chief Francisco "El Vikingo" Velazco. Velazco was detained in 2009 for alleged links to Los Zetas.

In response to Garcia Rodriguez's statement, Julian Ricalde Magana, the mayor of Cancun (which is in Quintana Roo state), said the general had no proof. Later, on Oct. 26, Ricalde said he could not vouch for the municipal police. Quintana Roo state Gov. Roberto Borge Angulo said Oct. 25 that an investigation into the general's claims would be conducted.

It is unclear whether either the military or state authorities will take action against the alleged corruption of the police force, or if the purported percentage of corrupt officers is even accurate. Still, a decision to increase the military or federal police force's policing duties in Cancun or to purge municipal police could increase overall levels of violence — at least in the short term.

Editor's Note: We now offer the daily Mexico Security Monitor, an additional custom intelligence service geared toward organizations with operations or interests in the region and designed to provide more detailed and in-depth coverage of the situation. To learn more about this new fee-based custom service, visit www.stratfor.com/msm.

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